Justice delivery system must be impartial - Gutu
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 06:42
Zimbabwe has been dogged by serious abuse of human rights pointedly by State security agents against people who are perceived to be in opposition to Zanu PF. Citing an example of the ongoing persecution of human rights defender, Farai Maguwu, a diamond researcher who documented the army’s atrocities in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, Hon. Gutu said he would be meeting his colleague in the ministry, Patrick Chinamasa this week, to discuss the continued harassment of Maguwu.
Maguwu is the executive director of the Mutare-based Centre for Research and Development Trust who was arrested last month on trumped up charges of publishing and communicating statements prejudicial to the State. His arrest followed his report on the human rights abuses taking place at the diamond rich Chiadzwa, where villagers are being assaulted and displaced by the State security agents, in an operation that has seen mineral wealth blatantly looted by Zanu PF chefs.
“I don’t want to be seen as someone who is interfering with the judiciary system in the country but Maguwu’s case is agonising,” Hon Gutu told The Changing Times. “It is not fair for an average person who is not a criminal to be denied bail. “As a result I want to make sure that the justice delivery system is not only functional but that we also respect the rule of law,” he said.
Hon. Gutu was appointed deputy minister by MDC President and Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai two weeks ago. He replaces Hon. Jessie Majome who is now the deputy minister of Women, Gender and Community Development. Hon. Gutu is also the senator for Chisipite in Harare. In the MDC he seats in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Information and Publicity committees.
A trained and well-experienced lawyer by profession, Hon. Gutu was born in Gutu, Masvingo province in 1962. He joined the legal profession in 1987 as law officer in the ministry that he is now heading after completing his studies at the University of Zimbabwe.Since then he has held several positions in the legal field and was until his appointment two weeks ago running his own successful law firm, Gutu and Chikowero Attorneys in Harare.Senator Gutu is married Tendai and the couple has two daughters Enia and Kudzanayi.
Hon. Gutu categorically emphasised that he would ensure that there was fairness in the justice system. “I held a meeting last week with my principal, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and he made it clear to me that I should take steps in ensuring that we have a fair justice system in Zimbabwe,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe was in the right direction as far as the democratisation agenda was concerened. He gave examples of the media reforms that are now in place and the proposed sweeping legislative changes to the Electoral Act, which will, among other things, ensure presidential election results are released in five days, averting a situation where poll results are mothballed as happened in the 2008 March vote won by the MDC president Hon Tsvangirai.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was not willing to announce that Zanu PF’s Robert Mugabe had been defeated by President Tsvangirai. “The amended Act will make running and monitoring elections very easy as voting will be ward based. Therefore there will be no double dipping whereby one person votes more than once,” he said.
During his term of office, Hon.Gutu plans to have the Chief Magistrate’s office being weaned off from the ministry to the Judiciary Service Commission. This will see magistrates practising more impartially and having their appalling working conditions improved.Currently the Justice and Legal Affairs
ministry has 11 divisions. These are; the Attorney-General’s office, Civil, Criminal, Legal Drafting, Policy and Research, the Chief Magistrate’s Office, Law Development Commission, Registrar of Deeds and Companies, Prisons, Public Protector and the Registrar of the High Court.
Commenting on the deplorable conditions of the prisons, Hon. Gutu said he would soon be visiting all prisons across the country to get first hand information on what the situation was like in order to make sure that the prison system is transformed and rehabilitated. “During my recent visit to Chikurubi Maximum Prison as a member of the Parliamentary thematic committee on Human Rights, I was not happy with the situation that I saw as the prisoners were going hungry due to lack of food and this among other issues has to be redressed.
“I am not saying a prison should be a hotel but it should meet basic dignities not produce hardcore criminals,” he said. Hon. Gutu said he would be meeting with all heads of departments in his ministry to implore them not to be aligned to any political party and be impartial in the discharge of
their duties. The Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana in 2008 openly declared in the Zanu PF-run The Herald newspaper that he was a Zanu PF supporter.
“That is what we want to debunk. Government offices are not political offices,” Hon Gutu said. “We need to create a system that is seen to be impartial, fast and efficient,” he said.